HOW’S THAT FOR STARTERS?
Life under Owen Coyle began in perfect fashion for Ross County, although the new Staggies manager will do well to find a more comfortable afternoon throughout his tenure.
County won at a canter against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park, with firsthalf goals from Craig Curran and Kenny van der Weg ensuring Coyle started as he means to continue in a display that will have offered the Staggies faithful a huge dose of encouragement.
Make no mistake, Killie were dire, with their supporters making no effort to disguise their anger towards manager Lee McCulloch, who has overseen a miserable start to the campaign, with the bottom-placed Ayrshire men going into the second international break of the campaign without a win. It was a timely victory for the Staggies, though – their first since they defeated Dundee on the opening day on August 5 – marking an ideal start for Coyle, and the perfect way to go into the international break with a four-point cushion from the bottom of the table.
The dismissal of Jim McIntyre has prompted the question of what the realistic expectation should be at County.
Regardless of whether McIntyre’s sacking was harsh as many have perceived, there was no avoiding the fact it had been a poor start to the campaign. Although County had faced some tough opposition in the opening weeks, they were only a point ahead of bottom-placed Killie ahead of this encounter and Coyle’s immediate remit, aside from season targets and long-term aspirations, was to quickly recapture the winning feeling.
Immediately he put his own stamp on the side, bringing in Davis Keillor-Dunn and Jamie Lindsay in place of Billy Mckay and Reghan Tumilty, lining up with a 4-3-3 formation that saw Keillor-Dunn and Michael Gardyne provide the wide support for attacker Curran.
County made a bright start, forcing a succession of early corners through their determination to attack Killie down the flanks, with their best early chance arriving on 10 minutes when Gardyne’s free kick picked out Andrew Davies, but he could not get enough of a connection to force his header goalwards.
Killie’s first attempt came on 21 minutes when Adam Frizzell took aim from long-range following a loose pass from Davies, with his powerful effort whistling inches over.
County kept up their threat and they went close on 21 minutes, with Gardyne’s thundering effort from the edge of the box forcing Jamie MacDonald to palm around the post.
Gardyne was the man trying to make things happen and the former Killie player delivered a delightful switched pass to release Keillor-Dunn in an excellent position, which the youngster was
unable to control before it trickled out of play.
County were thoroughly deserving of their lead when it arrived on 34 minutes. KeillorDunn put in a superb curling delivery from the left and Curran rose to bullet a header past MacDonald from eight yards. The visitors gave themselves some breathing space ahead of the interval, doubling their advantage through van der Weg’s first for the club. The left back strode forward unchallenged before initially threading in Curran, with the attacker’s strike fortuitously deflected into the path of van der Weg’s follow-up run and the Dutchman nipped in ahead of MacDonald to prod home. It was no more than County deserved at the halfway stage. Killie were jeered off at the break but there was no palpable response, with the visitors continuing to look the likelier side to score in the second half, with efforts from Curran and Lindsay both landing on the roof of the net.
Killie’s day was summed up when Dominic Thomas’ low ball from the right found substitute Kris Boyd, brought on at half-time to inject some goalscoring menace, with the veteran attacker sclaffing his effort.
County’s final attempt to add to their tally came in audacious style, with Jim O’Brien taking aim from the halfway line only to be thwarted by the alert MacDonald. But the destination of the points was never in much doubt.
VICTORY SALUTE: It’s the thumbs up for new Ross County manager Owen Coyle after starting his Staggies reign with a 2-0 Premiership victory against Kilmarnock on Saturday.
FIRST BLOOD: Craig Curran, centre, is on the mark as
he heads Ross County to a 1-0 lead against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park
King Kenny: County’s Kenny van der Weg , centre, celebrates after making it 2-0